Every effect has a cause; it is self-evident there must be a cause behind every natural phenomena. Whenever a cause is found its corresponding effect comes into being. As a system, to what extent can we understand cause and effect in Islam?
The relationship between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect) is known as causality, or causation. These two philosophies are guided by the principles of cause and effect. The difference between them occurs through their interpretation of the relationship between cause and effect. Causation maintains there is a casual relationship between action (cause) and result (effect). The philosophy of causation is to provide a means of connecting the cause with the resulting effect. Whereas causality differs as it contends the cause is understood to be responsible for the effect which stipulates one action causes the next. So there cannot be an effect unless there has first been a cause.
In Islam one of the means by which Allah (swt) is able to operate, in this realm of existence, is through the inner relationships of cause and effect. In an inner relationship a cause can be described as producing its own effect; in this respect the cause is the effect of its own effect. The philosophy of cause and effect relationships in Islam can be more acutely understood through the relationship we have with God.
There are many types of relationships with God but the two most observable ones are what can be described as vertical and horizontal. A horizontal relationship places God on the same level as us, whereas in a vertical relationship God is placed above us.
A vertical relationship acknowledges the position of ourselves, and those around us, in the pursuit of causation, but it also recognises God’s position insofar as saying whatever happens is because of Gods Will. In a vertical relationship actions which are performed, and effects which are desired should be done through God.
A practical example of this is searching for a job. It is not merely enough to just place our trust and reliance in Allah (swt) and know that God will fulfil our request without any action on the part of the individual. It is not enough to just ask Allah (swt) for a job and then proceed to be lazy. If we lie in our beds all day and not apply for jobs how can we expect to get one? More importantly how can we expect Allah (swt) to give us a job if there is no causation? The effect we seek is a job, the cause is to take direct action to find and secure it, knowing through this action God will help you.
It is through Allah (swt) that the action (the cause) can be fulfilled in order to arrive at the effect, in this respect Allah (swt) is the part of the action (the cause) and the effect. God is the cause and it is through God there will be an effect, without Him there is no cause and effect. On a linear relationship God is above us, it is through Him that we should be operating, therefore there is a second layer of cause and effect; the actions which we as individuals take.
In an exam situation it is not enough to say, “God will help me pass” if the person has skipped lectures, done no revision, has not studied at all, and has not prepared for the exam. There needs to be action on the part of the individual in order for them to see an effect.
The philosophy of cause and effect and its relationship with Allah (swt) is what could be described as being based on the preparedness for the effect, which we are seeking. Allah (swt) is the only cause; it is with His will that being becomes reality, but what if we are not ready for what we seek? If, in ourselves, we are not prepared for the effect when it comes, it will not find a place for it to attach itself to or for it to manifest itself in.
It is easy to say “I want a job” but if we are not prepared to work hard, spend long days at the office, be determined and want to make a contribution regardless of the position, then it will always be difficult to find employment.
A similar example to employment is marriage. There will come a time when many of us will want to seek a partner and contemplate marriage, but if we are unprepared for marriage (the effect) then it is more difficult to get married. It is with the will of Allah (swt) that everything happens and comes into reality.
Marriage is the effect; it is the secondary event. Before the effect can happen preparation must occur in order for the first event to take place (the cause). It is through God that the effect will come into being, but if there is no preparation on the part of the individual the cause will not occur; and as such there cannot be an effect. Thus defining the ‘cause-and-effect’ relationship.
If we firstly do not prepare ourselves for the effect we wish to see, then we have nobody but ourselves to blame when we do not receive what we want. We cannot blame God for our own lack of preparation. Employment was just one example of cause and effect but it can be applied to various aspects of our lives; e.g. education, marriage, family, parenting, ethics and morality (Akhlaq), faith and certitude (Iman).
The philosophy of cause and effect in Islam is an often misunderstood idea, but it is an important concept to comprehend; as it is one of many ways in which we can invite Allah (swt) and the AhlulBayt (as) into our lives.
Written by Hameed Mozaffari
 Oxford English Dictionary
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